Thoughts on the term limits assessment

Jonathan has asked for my thoughts on the term limits assessment.  The overall summary is that I don’t find it made nearly as compelling of an argument as it could have and that too much faith is placed in term limits as a solution to get our economy on track.  Far more drastic measures will be necessary.

My first thought is why didn’t the OBA follow the recommendations on communications?

  • Rather than jump to announce the elimination of term limits, they could have taken a couple weeks and likely mitigated much of the fallout (planning)
  • Clearly communicate that based upon the assessment eliminating term limits is a crucial pillar in getting our economy back on track (reasoning)
  • Openly publish the assessment document (transparency)
  • Hold a public forum to explain your stance and take feedback (inclusion)
  • Announce your conclusion that in order to get the economy back on track it is necessary to eliminate term limits (conclusion)

I think the primary concern expressed by the community assessment misses the mark but the rest is spot on.

The primary concern by some Bermudians is that the termination of the term limit policy would encourage long-term residency and lead to gentrification of the community.

 

Let me be absolutely clear here: Most people don’t understand the distinction between work permits and term limits.  Politics is about managing perceptions, not reality.  The OBA made the mistake of directly addressing the issue of the above concerns but did not adequately address the misconception between the two.  I would be willing to bet that the primary concern of most Bermudians is the opportunity for and welfare of Bermudians.  That should have been the focus, not long term residency.  Most people are concerned about jobs, the high cost of living and social issues.  If every Bermudian was made rich by welcoming expats rather than being made to feel like second class citizens in their own home I’d bet we’d have a great deal fewer complaints.

Policy considerations

The greater the number of people with Bermudian status or permanent residence, the greater population and potential overcrowding concern becomes (sic).

I think this can be misinterpreted.  More people can mean more “concern”, but as mentioned by a point further below in the document to this one, we need to grow our population.  Anyone who has studied our demographics will know that we’re facing the same decline faced by other nations.  We need to increase the size of our working class in order to be able to support our aging boomers.  Long term contributors to our island who actively participate in making it a better place through getting involved in causes and other positive activities are net positives for our island.  Our island is only overcrowded because we’ve refused to go up, specifically in the city.

The normal work permit policies and procedures continue to apply.  The employer will continue to be required to advertise the position and hire qualified Bermudians where identified.

The normal work permit policies are utterly broken for both parties.  The process is cumbersome and inefficient.  My suggestions:

  • Establish a register of able bodied Bermudians noting their skills, qualifications and employment status.  All new jobs should be compared against this register.  Advertising in the paper does not work.  Bermudians are kept out of the loop of real opportunities until usually a foreigner has been found and International Business is kept of the loop in able bodied qualified Bermudians they’d like to find.  Companies also shouldn’t be bogged down with considering completely unqualified people.
  • Streamline the work permit system to determine skill points similar to the Australian immigration points system to identify skilled roles and compare them against the ability of Bermudians to fill those roles and fast track work permit applications accordingly.  Higher points + few Bermudians should be a nearly instant rubber stamp approval.  Low points + many Bermudians should be more scrutiny.
  • Encourage medium and large sized companies to provide career development programs not just “training” for all employees.  One of the large problems Bermuda faces is that due to a largely transient workforce, companies can tend to rely on only hiring the skill they need without focusing on how to progress people within their organization.  This can be why many Bermudians are left behind, because they remain in this environment while expats come and go.

Impact assessment

I think the Economic assessment is largely wishful thinking.  This is a case of closing the stable after the horse is gone.  Eliminating term limits won’t create a raft of jobs.  Instead what it will do is help limit the outflow.  Other more drastic measures will be needed to kickstart the economy again.

I found the the analysis of the problem to be entirely qualitative and largely subjective with almost zero quantitative substance.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I often like to look at the hard statistics to get to the root of an issue.  More could have been done in this regard and I am hopeful that the new government recognizes this and will make more raw data and statistics available to the public in a consumable form.

Overall I don’t think the assessment made that compelling of an argument to quell those who believe the term limits policy should continue.  I certainly would have liked to have been a greater focus on evidence of the decline in jobs and more talking points from the various stakeholders.  This likely would have helped make things more clear.  Ultimately, regardless of the assessment’s conclusion, I think it is very important that it be understood that eliminating term limits its a panacea solution.  It plugs a leak but won’t bail out our sinking ship.  We’re going to need to do a lot more to get our economy and island back on track.

 

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